Flavor keeps me coming back to the garden.
Keeps me coming back to myself.
Garlic and shallots, with their exquisite flavor and versatility, accompany me to the kitchen in each season.
For many years, I had no idea different varieties of garlic could taste to different. Several years back, we hosted a gathering of friends, chefs and food writers, garlic lovers and garlic haters alike. We sauteed and roasted 17 varieties of garlic (it’s true), each one labeled. A feast we set out, each dish without garlic: roasts and quiches, olive oil and baguette, smashed potatoes and hummus. We then added garlic to each dish, one variety after another, attempting to characterize and articulate what we were tasting.
Italy Hill Porcelain is our favorite variety for making pesto.
The unanimous conclusion: We all know the apple varieties we like best. Surely you know if you prefer an Empire over a Granny Smith, for example. But in our rush to commoditize food, we’ve largely forgotten the diversity garlic flavor. Some garlic is pungent, even sulfurous. Others are rich and smooth, with exquisite depth and complexity. Some garlic is exceptionally mild, even floral. And everything in between. What you find below are our favorites from those 17 varieties, plus others we’ve stumbled into along the way and just adore.
Each variety harbors their own unique flavor, some more pungent and others more floral, some perfect for pesto and other ideals for roasting.
Garlic and shallots are easy to grow and largely cultivated in the same way.
Here in the Northeast, garlic and shallots are two of the easiest vegetables to grow and among the most rewarding, as well.
Though we plant them in the fall (Halloween to Thanksgiving is ideal), we’re setting aside our stock now, making sure we have plenty both to eat and re-plant.
The hardest part of growing garlic is this: You must plant your biggest, most beautiful bulbs instead of eating them. Most garlic and shallots don’t produce seed, so we plant individual cloves of garlic or bulbs of shallots, respectively.
The easiest way to harvest huge, extraordinary shallots and garlic is to start with incredible and quality stock in the fall. At Fruition, we grow enough to share and below are the varieties we are curing, as I write, to ship to you in September.
We always sell out, so reserve yours soon.
Some shallots are grown from seed, like our heirloom Cuisse du Poulet, though most are grown from bulb, like our Dutch Red. Many of these are Allium cepa, the same genus/species as onion, and they closely related to multiplier onions. For the true shallot seeker, accept no imitations: There is only one true shallot and that is Allium oschaninii, the French Grey, or Griselle.
French Grey shallots, Griselles, produce an average of ten new bulbs from each one you plant.
French Grey Shallots
These, friends, are the shallots that earned their delectable reputation. Lusciously sweet and a treat to caramelize. In the kitchen, we reserve French Greys for the finishing touch. We’ll chop a pound of onion for ratatouille while we mince five French Greys to caramelize and tuck on the top of each bowl, their sweet crunch adding the ultimate finish. Used judiciously, a handful of French Greys will transform many meals.
French Greys are only grown from bulbs in rough and humble, cream-bronze skin. They are notably more petite and elongated compared to Dutch Red and many other shallots, like delectable ivory apostrophes.
Alas, French Greys do not store as the Dutch shallots do, so we savor them mid-summer through December, enjoying the Dutch Reds over the long winter.
Dutch Red shallots are handsome and easily store one year or more when well-cured.
Dutch Red Shallots
Shallots are known for their sweetness, especially compared to their pungent botanical cousin, the onion. Dutch Reds are sweet indeed and such a treat to enjoy all winter long. Their copper-rose skins and plump one- to four-inch bulbs are too handsome to tuck away in the cellar, so they reside in a beautiful bowl in our kitchen as the snow flies.
Dutch Reds will store well over one year when cured properly.
Italy Hill Porcelain
Grown in the Finger Lakes for over 60 years, Italy Hill Porcelain is our favorite for pesto. It’s one of our first varieties to throw its scapes each year! Each massive ivory bulb has 5 to 6 massive, easy to peel cloves with rich, full garlic flavor with a depth rarely present in Porcelain varieties. They store well into the winter, as well.
Italy Hill is a glorious porcelain hardneck, as delicious as it is massive.
Music is a porcelain hardneck with classic garlic flavor and aroma, becoming nutty and sweet when cooked with just a touch of heat. Each bulb is bright white with an average of 5 massive, easy to peel cloves. Originally from Italy, Al Music brought this variety to Canada in the 1980s; Music is now one of the most popular cultivars of garlic. Music is so large it is often mistaken for Elephant Garlic. Cured and stored well, you’ll enjoy Music well into the winter.
Regatusso is an artichoke-style softneck well-adapted for harsh Northern winters.
Ohhhhhh, we love Regatusso. She is just gorgeous. Her wide artichoke-style softneck bulbs are covered in striped purple wrappers and contain 10 to 12 cloves in several layers, each one large and easy to peel. The flavor of Regatusso is similarly unique: With aromatic depth, pleasantly mildness and being devoid singeing heat, she is the only garlic we ever enjoy raw. The Regatusso Family brought this garlic to New York’s Genesee Valley from southern Italy in the early 1900s, where is still grown abundantly. Cured and stored well, Regatusso will last you into the spring and early summer.
If you have heard that softnecks aren’t as easy to grow as hardnecks in Northern climates, start with regionally adapted seed like this. You’ll just smile when you hear people say what cannot be done, too
Label your garlic well as it cures, Friends! I’m labeling our German White before we hang it in the barn.
If you’re looking for our spiciest garlic, look no further. A large porcelain hardneck, German White is bold and robust, even when cooked. We reach for German White when we want just a few cloves to flavor a vat of marinara. Each gorgeous white bulb has four to six massive, easy to peel cloves that store six to eight months.
Red Rezan is not as massive as other porcelain types, but its flavor is far richer than most. It’s outer wrappers are white but the inner wrappers are glazed purple.
Collected by Klaus Pistrick in 1986 from Rezan, Russia just southeast of Moscow, Red Rezan is a porcelain hardneck variety is beloved for well-rounded garlic flavor and strong aromatic warmth both raw and cooked. We love Red Rezan for the rich depth and heat it brings our pesto. Its ultra-smooth wrappers are glazed purple and silver. Each clove is silver with a blush of purple at its base. Each bulb has 8 to 12 easy-to-peel cloves to enjoy for 7 to 8 months when cured and stored well.
Garlic is one of my favorite crops to grow, so simple and so satisfying. The diversity of flavors between varieties continues to astound me each season. I hope you’ll discover this, yourself! And I hope you’ll share your garlic with people you love, as abundantly, as well.
Sow Seeds & Sing Songs,
& the whole Fruition crew
It’s August 1st and we’ve been eating August Ambrosia watermelon for over a week…!